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Guide Books and Audio Guides in Italy

as part of Jenny and Charlie Plesums visit

October 2-12, 2011

Rick Steves


Rick Steves publishes a series of guide books for Europe, high quality but sometimes lost among the many competitors. On this trip our friends loaned us a variety, in addition to our own, and by comparing them, we have become Rick Steves fans. His recommendations were outstanding other than one restaurant in Rome, which strongly advertised his endorsement, and apparently was resting on their laurels.

Rick Steves' Audio Europe

This is a free iPhone app; once you have downloaded it from the iTunes store, select the sections (playlists) you would like to place on your iPhone. The data files are large, so you may want to do the download at home. No communications are required while you are listening to the app, or looking at the associated maps. The playlists include general and cultural sightseeing information, historic walks, and tours of specific sights.

As we were wandering around in Venice, we bumped into a couple using the audio guide to St. Mark's. Each had their own copy, like renting two "recorded guides" from the museum.

When we returned to Florence, we loaded the Renaissance Walk thru Florence. We found it a delightful walk, with interesting comments and pictures. We have a splitter to run two sets of earphones from one device, and a long "coil cord" extension for the second person. We enjoyed staying together and doing the tour simultaneously. Only once did someone try to cut between us, through our wire, and Jenny delighted in saying she finally was able to keep me on a leash.

In Your Pocket

This is a small guide to many less traveled cities in Northern and Eastern Europe. We stumbled on it in Riga, Latvia, and found it wonderfully helpful - it has become our favorite guide for the cities where it is available. Updated versions are published frequently - even every few weeks. Free copies are often available in airport arrival concourses, or at newsstands for a fee. However, you can download PDF files from their web site, with the complete contents before you leave - not as compact a size as the free booklet, but available for pre-trip study.

In Your Pocket is apparently planning to add Italy, but they do not currently have any guides to Italy. Watch for them!

I found reference to an InYourPocket City guide iPhone app ($2.99). There is a separate app for each city, listed under the city name, with local maps, restaurants, weather reports, and hints, apparently using minimal telecommunications other than "WiFi back at the hotel." I do not know anyone who has tried the InYourPocket apps.

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